Battle Pope!! Rome was besieged by Muslim sea invaders,and while previous Pope Sergius II hid while the pirates pillaged St.Peter’s and terrorized Italians,Pope Leo IV was not about to take things lying down. A new Pope was in charge and he wasted no time putting a stop to this ongoing threat. Leo quickly organized the mariner towns of Naples, Gaeta and Amalfi and together they forged a league to destroy the Saracen invaders. An awesome fleet was pulled together and Pope Leo put Cesarius of Naples in command. Leo charged him with the task of complete and utter annihilation of the marauders and the ensuing Battle of Ostia completely destroyed the invading fleet in one of the most one sided naval fights in history. Leo further fortified the walls of the Vatican and of Rome and restored the damage done to St.Peter’s and St.Paul’s. The Battle of Ostia was one of the major events of the middle ages and it helped drive invading Muslims out of the area for good. The blessing of the fleet by Pope Leo IV was later painted by Raphael on the walls of the Vatican palace.
Pope Sergius II was a terrible Pope. He came to the chair of Peter through violent intimidation from his supporters and then spent the entirety of his term basically crippled with gout. Sergius was so indisposed that his brother Benedict actually took over running things most of the time,much to the dismay of the clergy. Benedict loved money and was not opposed to accepting bribes in exchange for high ranking jobs within the Church. Terrible. Things came to a head in 846 when an army of Muslim invaders attacked and looted St.Peter’s basilica while Sergius hid behind the walls of Rome. The Roman people looked on the Muslim invasion and subsequent destruction caused by it as Divine retribution from God for all of the Pope’s crimes. Sergius passed away shortly afterwards,but I could find no mention of what became of his sleazy brother. I hate writing about bad Popes,but these guys were still human and for all the good and even great Popes we’ve had,we still had some duds in the bunch.
The only real interesting thing about Pope Sergius II was that he was played by John Goodman in a awful sounding movie called “Pope Joan”. This movie concerns the legend of a woman who disguised herself as a man and worked her way unrecognized up through the Church and to the Papacy. This is nonsense. The elections of Popes at this time were highly contested affairs that almost always provoked riots and almost always needed intervention from kings or emperors to settle. This reason alone is enough to dispute this myth,as I doubt someone could simply sail past all of these contentious obstacles without being found out. The lack of legitimate documentation from history or even the Church’s enemies and the lack of a specific actual time frame when this all would have taken place are more reasons to dispel “Pope Joan”.